IT Department Aids College in Virtual Transition

On March 12, Albion College announced the transition to online instruction due to COVID-19. Offices on campus, including information technology and student development, both of which are located in Ferguson Hall, have been vital in helping the college transition to a virtual format (Photo by Maclean Robertson).

When Albion College switched to remote learning, many departments across campus pitched in to support students, faculty and staff. Among the first to act was the information technology (IT) Department. 

“Albion College IT is a service organization and exists to support the mission of Albion College,” said Eric Beadle, director of systems, networking and user services. 

Prior to the online switch, the department had already begun making preparations in case it were to happen. Student workers tested Google Meet sessions to ensure it worked smoothly. The department also lent out laptops to students who needed them. 

IT student manager Isaiah Quarles, a sophomore from Chicago, noted that the department was putting valuable work into supporting the college. 

“It was no doubt they were working to make sure students and especially professors were good,” said Quarles via email. “I think IT wanted to make sure everyone was ready as possible, so the process of helping once all students went home and the school closed would be easier.”

Instructors around the world have transitioned to delivering content through video meeting platforms such as Zoom. This comes with the added stress of the potential to be hacked. Classes conducted over Zoom have been disrupted by outside participants with racist, misogynistic and vulgar content, a phenomenon that has come to be known as “Zombombing.”

Albion College utilizes Google Meet for teleconferencing. According to Beadle, Google Meet is encrypted end to end, so the only real security threat is someone getting the link to a meeting that contained sensitive information. Since Google Meet shows participants in a user friendly manner, this is something minor that the meeting head can manage. 

While teleconferencing is mostly secure, Beadle noted that there has been an increase in phishing emails. 

“While Google’s filters and administrative monitoring are addressing the vast majority of such emails, all of our users need to use good judgment when opening emails- especially those from unsolicited sources,” said Beadle via email. “Always make sure that the email address of the sender matches who the sender is claiming to be. Any official email from Albion College will come to you from an ‘’ email account.”

Quarles is one of the five to six students working in IT and has been working there for over a year. He noted that students are always a top priority for the department. 

“What the IT department values before everything happened was, and still is, students’ education, always helping the student. Hence, ‘Help Desk,’” said Quarles. “I always listen to my supervisor, her co-worker and boss say ‘What about the students? Students have trouble with this.’”

The transition, held together by its leaders, was new for everyone. Beadle said that IT is prepared to support Albion College’s needs as everyone navigates through this crisis. 

“I have never been prouder to be a part of the Albion College IT team than during this crisis, as we helped transition the campus to online learning and telecommuting in the course of one week,” said Beadle. “I have also been very pleased with the patience and flexibility of students, faculty and staff as this transition happened.”

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